Are you a foodie enthusiast? Do you love and appreciate the traditional food that many countries have to offer? Do you often find yourself drooling to the aroma of steaming hot food, much like the feeling of smelling freshly brewed coffee in the morning?
Like many countries, Vietnam is no different when it comes to food and specialty dishes
Food is at the heart of Vietnamese culture and Vietnamese food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world as it mixes together a range of flavors and tastes. While street eateries are everywhere, as the city becomes more affluent, Vietnamese cuisine is going indoors. These days, there are a lot of local restaurants that provide quality and authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
Where some countries may be known for innovative new dishes and modern culinary skills, Vietnam is best known for its age-old recipes, from warming noodle soup to Franco-Vietnamese bánh mì baguettes. Here are the best traditional Vietnamese food that make it deliciously obvious why they’ve stood the test of time.
Cơm tấm – Broken rice
This simple meal, is one of the most popular traditional Vietnamese food from South Vietnam at any time of the day, but particular in the morning. It is usually served grilled marinated pork chops, plus a mixture of thinly shredded pork and pork skin over broken rice.
On top of the meat, there are several customary ingredients such as: finely sliced cucumber, tomato and pickled vegetables, along with prawn paste cake also known as steamed pork and egg custard or pork meatloaf with egg, fried egg, and grilled prawns.
As a dry dish, it would normally be served with a small bowl of fish sauces on the side.
Influenced by French colonialism in Indochina, bánh mì is a delicious example of Franco-Vietnamese food, infused with flavours, ingredients and tastes from the two countries.
Filled with a choice of meat (or egg, for vegetarians), fresh vegetables and a moreish sweet sauce, the crispy baguettes can be found in street stalls, restaurants and even the most remote areas.
This national staple is made with flat rice noodles, a warming broth and usually chicken or beef. The flavour of this comforting noodle soup can vary greatly across the country, and many establishments load your table with sauces, herbs and spices so you can season your pho exactly how you like it.
Pho is the traditional Vietnamese food that is well-known worldwide. Pho has shown its position not only in Vietnamese cuisine but also world cuisine. You can find Pho everywhere from street stalls to high-end restaurants.
Related article: Top 5 places to taste Pho in Ho Chi Minh city
These little rolls of heaven are filled with seasoned pork and finely chopped wood ear mushrooms, wrapped in steamed, fermented rice batter, and dunked in a fish sauce dip. This traditional Vietnamese food can usually be found on street vendors.
The appeal of this dish is not only the great taste, but also the intriguing way it’s made. Patrons can often watch their host steaming the extremely delicate pancakes moments before their dish is served.
This dish is typically a mix of flavourful barbecued pork, fresh noodles and fish sauce, as well as handfuls of sliced papaya, carrot and herbs. Customers often partially cook the food themselves by dipping fresh noodles into a bowl of steaming broth.
If you’re having trouble finding bun cha, you may occasionally find it advertised under the name ‘Obama noodles’, since a certain someone visited Vietnam and ate the dish in 2016.
This is one of the less clear-cut traditional Vietnamese food, with a variety of different recipes emerging across the country. (In fact, there are even versions of the meal in Cambodia and China).
At its simplest, hu tieu can be described as ‘pork bone soup’, but everything from the type of noodles to the choice of meat seems to vary from place to place. All we know is that it’s scrumptious every single way.
Mì vịt tiềm
This roasted duck dish with chunky egg noodles is perhaps less famous than other Vietnamese noodle soups – but no less delicious. Mi vit tiem is recognisably influenced by Chinese cuisine, but still infused with classic Vietnamese spice and flavour.
Although not technically food, bia hoi definitely deserves a place on this must-try list. A type of draft beer, this tipple can usually be found poured straight from a large barrel at local drinking holes. The drink itself is rather weak and bubbly, but the drinking culture is not to be missed.
Head to any Vietnamese city centre in the evening and you’re likely to find a pavement crammed with people sipping cool glasses of bia hoi atop miniature plastic stools. It is best served with most traditional Vietnamese food.
Che has a vast array of ingredients, both savoury and sweet, but it can be best described as ‘sweet dessert soup’. Variations of the dish include anything from kidney beans to grass jelly and tapioca fruit to coconut cream. You can find che at any time of the year, but it’s arguably best served with a scoop of crushed ice on a hot day.
With much of traditional Vietnamese food being unsparingly fried, grilled and boiled, you may find yourself occasionally craving something a little fresher. Look no further than gỏi cuốn, also known as ‘summer rolls’. These fresh spring rolls are typically packed with crispy salad, prawns and pork, and served with a sweet-and-spicy dip topped with peanuts.
For those who would rather dig into a savoury pancake than a sweet one, bánh xèo is a tasty pork-and-shrimp crêpe, flavoured with turmeric and packed with bean sprouts. Don’t be fooled by its healthy appearance, though, bánh xèo‘s literal translation of ‘sizzling cake’ refers to the noise it makes during frying.